Welcome to All Hallows Church, Leeds

Welcome to our website. Do please take some time to find out about us and do leave a comment should you wish to. All comments are moderated so they may not appear immediately.

15 people like this

Under One Roof

“Under One Roof” is the new title for our fund raising efforts for the regeneration of All Hallows building, community work, and most urgently the ROOF needed, for all our actions to take place in the safe and warm!

We are asking everyone for a very special effort, from April 2017 to April 2018, in fundraising, prayer, and work.  It’ll take longer than that to complete, but to prove to outside funders that we are a vibrant, sustainable community, able to put in the effort ourselves first, we want to show an exciting programme of fundraising and community building in this year in particular.

Dates for your Diary, some wonderful Sundays coming up:

April 15th:   Easter Sunday

Sunday 23rd April: Church Annual General Meeting during morning service. This is a great time for catching up with all that has gone on in the past year, as we listen to stories from the various groups and activities connected with the church, and pray for the future.

Sunday 30th April: Service of inspiration and commitment to our building, to launch “Under One Roof”

Sunday 7th May: our new PCC takes a special time out for lunch together after church, to get to know one another and envision the future.

So before we jump in, a time for some thought, reflection and prayer, during Lent.

WHAT DOES THE PHRASE ‘UNDER ONE ROOF’ CONJURE UP FOR YOU?  For some answers from PCC, see at the end of this email, but think of your own before you peep!!

Can you think of any stories from the Bible in which roofs feature?  A few below to start us off, but I’m sure there are more!

How could you use these for your own prayer? how could you share them with others in discussion? How can these scriptures ‘get wings’ and help recreate not just our building, but our community and relationships?

Two stories really speak to me:

Abraham and the angels Genesis 18

Read what happened when Abraham was willing to take in three complete strangers under the roof of his tent.  Many centuries later the icon painter Rublev painted this scene, in a way which depicted the strangers as the three persons of the trinity. How does this change our thoughts on the story?  See the icon in All Hallows, to the right of our altar, under the stained glass window.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels unawares” Hebrews 13:2

Peter and Cornelius:  Acts 10

Two men praying separately, at least one of them on a roof top; one a very Jewish Christian, one a pious Roman gentile. It’s an extraordinary story of cherished world view and prejudice being turned inside out, and the whole Christian enterprise being transformed forever in an inclusive direction: truly a parable for All Hallows as we pioneer hospitality, diversity and inter faith community.  But the household of Cornelius needed a large building, with a good roof, to give hospitality to this shocking new revival, and totally unexpected outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the excluded gentile population.

You might also like to have a look at these:

Genesis 19:8 Lot, in Sodom, had his guests “under the protection of my roof

Joshua 2:6 Rahab uses the roof as a hiding place for the spies

2 Kings 4:8-10 the Schunamite woman builds a spare room on her roof, so as to be able to give hospitality and understanding to the travelling prophet

Building Projects:

1 Kings: 5 onwards, and elsewhere – the building of Solomon’s temple: all the craftspeople, benefactors and above all workpeople, who enabled it to happen.

Nehemiah: the renovation of the walls of Jerusalem, achieved by joint communal effort, against much opposition

Ezra: the renovation of the temple itself, again with great opposition

Isaiah 54: 2-3 and here’s a promise:

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
 your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”

What does “Under One Roof” conjure for YOU?  Here’s some starter words from PCC:

      shelter         united     together      safe    

buckets       family       community

    inclusion      building      safety 

lengthen the stays; brace the tent pegs; prepare for the storm

      sanctuary      opportunity       conflict

different kinds of people           a variety of activity 

    a safe place         conflict         getting along in a crowd

people NOT like us          people LIKE us

           sharing        abundance

 

Pippa Woodhams

0 Like this?

Bulletin 19th March 2017

Bulletin 19th March 2017

0 Like this?

Sermon by Dr Jan Betts – 12th March 2017

Notes from the sermon by Dr Jan Betts – 12th March 2017

May all I speak and all that is heard be breathed into by your loving spirit O God

Mark Chapter 10.

One reason for taking big chunks of the gospel to reflect on is because if we read the gospels in chunks it gives us a chance to see how Jesus’ message hangs together. Reading the gospels over and over in big chunks can make us wilfully deaf and blind people hear and see a little better. So we continue our gallop today through this most breathless of gospels

This chapter starts with Jesus talking to a group he engages with regularly, the Pharisees, the holders of the law. Jesus talks to them on their own ground, challenging them on the technicalities of their beliefs. Jesus never refuses to talk anyone, only surprises and challenges with his answers.

Noticing that Jesus talks to everyone is relevant to the next bit of the chapter which is, at least partly, about Jesus’ message being for everyone equally. The New Testament church learned a tough lesson later about not needing to be Jewish and circumcised to be part of the way of Jesus. The Gospel is for everyone.

We talk a lot about inclusion at All Hallows. We are quite quick to feel excluded and even to say so. But one of the questions I am asking myself at present is, when does my inclusion involve or threaten to involve the exclusion of someone else. The Pharisees included themselves but they excluded others, those who didn’t observe the law. I want to be included – but I have to be careful and humble not to be excluding of others in order for that to happen.

Who does Jesus include next? A group of children. Children, unlike the Pharisees, had no status, and were some of the marginalised and vulnerable in society. Their mothers brought them to Jesus – women and children, two ‘lesser’ kinds of being in all sorts of ways. And the disciples rush over and start saying hey you can’t do that, he’s got better things to do than talk to kids, like perhaps talking to needy adults! True the adults are needy – but including the adults like this means excluding the children.

So Jesus rounds on the disciples and tells them off.  He scolds them for daring to say who he will and won’t talk to. No one has an exclusive right to the attention of God. Interestingly not long before Jesus has already explicitly said to them that anyone who welcomes a child in his name welcomes him – and the disciples still don’t get the message. (Another theme – how blind and rubbish at listening the disciples were, – just like us).

Not only must the disciples welcome children, Jesus says, they must be like children in their acceptance of him and the Kingdom he is bringing and is still bringing.

Children are lots of things, and we could linger here for a long time. Children are trusting. They recognise and respond to kindness and attention and they know when they are being fobbed off. In response they are generous lovers. Children don’t question love, they accept it. And they are not afraid – or shouldn’t be – to speak the truth about themselves and their experience. They don’t respect worldly power, they ask daft questions and are often totally astute about people – it was a child who said clearly that the Emperor had no clothes.

But as we are socialised we learn caution and we get hurt and all our child – ness disappears – and we are lucky if it doesn’t happen too soon.

For each of us there is almost always a little child behind the big adult front who usually has some hurts which have built the adult mask. Often it’s about feeling unimportant in some way, or unworthy of something whether that be a job, or being loved or even having food. Or the child may feel ignored or frightened. That child is what Jesus wants us to bring to him to be loved, the child who can, with Jesus, cry, be open and honest, not pretend to be other than we are. We come as children and children are included. That may be the most precious bit of us to God.

Later in the chapter we hear how Jesus calls the disciples his children – can you imagine the twinkle in his eye as he does this, the smile on his face as he lovingly labels them what they have despised? What does Jesus have to name that we despise in ourselves and need to acknowledge and bring for God’s gentle healing? Are we proud? Greedy? Dominating? Selfish? Whatever…the child can be loved and healed.

The theme of upside down inclusion goes on as Jesus meets a rich young ruler. Let’s pay attention to each of those words. This man was young, full of hope and energy. He was rich – and presumably had grown up rich. He was a ruler – again inherited, we presume. He was a fabulous young man, who Jesus loved. But he was used to power – note his question ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do ……

Jesus in his infinite perception says to him you cannot do anything at all – and yet you have to do everything. Eternal life isn’t a contract. You have to come into a relationship with me which gives up all your attempts to control. You have to give up being your version of being adult and become my child and walk with me. And it’s not possible and the young man was sad.

Why did this lovable rich young ruler not want to give up his wealth? It may have been for very good reasons about the family. We can’t imagine him as a greedy or avaricious or anything else. Maybe he needed the money to keep his parents as they deserved? To look after his orphaned nephews and nieces? Or whatever. But there was one more step. Money is power. It lets us feel we control our lives, and Jesus says no you can’t come with me and do that.

This is such an amazing story. Two people who really like each other go their separate ways, Jesus to die, the young ruler to go on ruling in wisdom and in kindness and in power and without the kingdom. Jesus is uncompromising, even though he loved him.

How can it be possible to give up our wish to dominate, to be exclusive, to control, the disciples ask, under the guise of talking about rich people? The killer line of this chapter is here: the seriousness of it is underlined by the phrase ‘Jesus gazed at them’. ‘With human resources it is impossible but for God everything is possible’.

With God it is possible. The young ruler could have given up his wealth. Our screaming inner child can be loved. How often do we say to Jesus I can’t do that and it makes us sad and dissatisfied – but we don’t do it, because we want to hang on to our illusions of control, to exclude part of us.

I confess this is where I stumble again and again. I want desperately to feel that I’ve done all I should for God, that I won’t be scolded for not being perfect. There is a child in me who was always made to feel guilty about not having done enough – the expectations were always there. I’m a psychologist, I’ve had therapy had wise spiritual directors and still that nagging little voice says Jesus won’t love you if you don’t work hard. It’s not true… Jesus is always trying to break down our adult shells, to get us to trust him. With God it is possible…. not easy, but possible.

Peter, another man who Jesus loved, stands up for the disciples. I love people who argue with Jesus – Debbie’s sermon a few weeks back talked about the woman who demanded a crumb from Jesus…’’We have done that, we have left everything and trusted you’ he says.  And Jesus says yes I know and you will get your reward including persecution. I’m going to show you how to do that too, I’m going to be killed. This is the way – walk in it. And trust me. With God everything is possible.

Much of Jesus’ ministry was about showing the nature of the upside down Kingdom, through his way of being, because the disciples are so slow to catch on. Here he’s trying to tell them and they are walking to Jerusalem and he wants friends who will walk with him. And what do they do in response to the teaching about giving up power and control and being trusting like children? They have an argument about who is going to be tops in the kingdom. It’s unspeakably hard for Jesus.

So he went back, at the end of the chapter, to patiently and lovingly showing them how things are.. He gave Bartimaus his sight, as much as to say to the disciples look look look this is how it is. The despised are included in the healing….the kingdom of God’s love is for everyone who has faith, who trusts me completely, and I will exclude no one, not the clever, not those who think they are right, not those who have worldly power, not those who are marginal in society, not those inner bits of you which you are ashamed of. And in return we have to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and be willing to let his love really really hit us, to know we too are not excluded.

Amen

0 Like this?

Bulletin 12th March 2017

Bulletin 12th March 2017

0 Like this?

Sermon for Transfiguration / Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Reading: Mark 9 – The Transfiguration of Jesus
Lord, I pray that the words that I speak, and the words that are heard contain something of your transforming glory so that we can join together in the work of bringing about your kingdom here on earth. Amen
In Mark’s Gospel so far, Jesus has been leading his followers up a metaphorical mountaintop to give them a new view of God’s kingdom which he was ushering in. However so much of what Jesus has said and done has been a mystery to those experiencing it. Gradually, though, their eyes are being opened and they are starting to get glimpses of things as they really are. Jesus’ many miracles and parables are starting to show them that he is the Messiah and they are beginning to understand more fully what that means.
At the Transfiguration, it is no longer just metaphorical, we are on an actual mountaintop. God’s voice confirms what the disciples are gradually realising: “This is my Son, and I love him”. Just like Moses and Elijah received their calling from God on a mountaintop, Jesus also meets God on a mountain. He is sent out to finish the work started through the Law and the Prophets. The transfiguration is a sign of Jesus being entirely caught up in the transforming love, power and kingdom of God, so that it transforms his whole being with light. This is the sign that Jesus is not just indulging in fantasies about God’s kingdom, but that he is speaking and doing the truth. It’s the sign that he is indeed the true prophet, the true Messiah.
For us, experiencing the kingdom of God in Jesus shouldn’t mean merely a few minor adjustments to our ordinary lives. Jesus’ whole being was transformed until he was shining with the light of God. The transfiguration account invites us to a whole-hearted transformation of ourselves, so that we too can pick up our cross, like Jesus did, and follow him. We should be transformed by God’s light, until we’re overflowing with the light of the world. We know that, but do we really allow ourselves to be fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus? Are there areas of your life that continually resist full transformation?
Our Chapter of Mark continues with the argument between the disciples about which one of them was the greatest. It amazes us that they have spent so much time with Jesus and yet they still don’t understand the upside down kingdom that he has been talking about and bringing about. But, if you’re honest with yourself, do you really get it? Are you completely immune to the pressures of this world for material success and status?
We know that in God’s upside down world God is biased towards the poor. The theme of Church Action on Poverty Sunday is “Poor Church, Transfigured Church”. What can the account of the Transfiguration teach us about what we should be like as a church? If our churches are to be communities that put the poorest first, how must we change? What must we let go of? What sacrifices are we called to make? How can we allow God to transform us into what Pope Francis has called a “poor Church for the poor”?
First we need to see God in Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration are two times that Jesus is identified as the Son of God, both times by a voice from heaven. The only time he is actually recognised as the Son of God by a human being is at his crucifixion. And this wasn’t by someone who had walked with him and listened to him – Jesus was recognised for who he really was by a gentile, a Roman centurion. And it didn’t happen when Jesus was at his most powerful. In fact it was when Jesus was at his most vulnerable – he had been stripped of everything and was at the mercy of the authorities. Jesus’ divine identity was most truly revealed when he was at his weakest.
We need to see God in Jesus and then we need to see God in each other. I think Emma reminded us last week that the Quakers try to see “That of God in everyone”. Do we really see God in those who, by the world’s standards, are weak and seemingly at the mercy of the “system”? Those people who are as weak and vulnerable as Jesus was at his crucifixion? When we see people in poverty do we see the face of Jesus Christ, and want to listen and learn – or do we see “them” as people who are not “us”, do we see “them” as a problem, do we want to fix “them” and sort “them” out? Fixes that come at cost to “them” but not to “us”; that change “them”, but fail to transform “us”?
Part of Church Action on Poverty’s mission has always been to give a voice, a face and a name to those of us who experience poverty on a daily basis. To create a space where there are different voices and people truly listen to each other.
I think we, at All Hallows, are not too bad at doing this. We have a lot of things going on in our building during the week. Through our work with refugees, through our café, and through many other things that we as individuals are involved with we encounter people different from ourselves.
In our café just last week we took part in a Big Conversation as part of the End Hunger UK campaign which is co-ordinated by Church Action on Poverty, and Student Christian Movement is part of. Emma, Sarah and I asked people to write on paper plates their response to the question: “What one thing would you ask the government to do to end hunger in the UK?”. The significance of using paper plates was that we were asking the government to “step up to the plate”! It was fascinating to listen to people’s conversations as they struggled to narrow it down to just one solution! You can see the ideas they came up with displayed in the café. It was a vivid reminder to me how much I have to learn from listening to people and learning from their experiences.
Have a think about your week ahead. How often will you make time to encounter someone with a different lived experience to you? Can you make some more time to sit and listen, maybe to someone who has had their benefits sanctioned or who has had to make the impossible choice between heating or eating? Can you make more time to hear people’s experiences for yourself and be transformed by them?
When thinking about the possibility of being a poor church for the poor I’ve been challenged to think not only about what we do in mission but also about our act of worship here on a Sunday morning. We like to think of ourselves as an inclusive church, and we try very hard to be, but how varied are the voices who lead us? Heston is very conscious of being a white male, although at least he is from another country and challenges other stereotypes of a parish priest! How many people of different colours, countries and financial situations are involved in designing our worship services? Is it actually possible to be inclusive for the person who struggles to read, while being inclusive to those who love the beauty of liturgical language? And what about being inclusive of the person who didn’t finish school, while being inclusive of those who like an intellectual debate about the finer details of eschatology? I don’t think there are easy answers but, to truly be an inclusive poor church for the poor, they are issues we need to be grappling with. How do we ensure we are a church where people from all backgrounds and life experiences can meet with the transforming love of God?
Instead of providing our own opinion of the solution, how do we equip and enable those individuals with personal experience of the challenges of life to exercise leadership? How do we empower them to make the changes they themselves have identified as necessary? It’s probably more costly, especially in terms of time which is a real challenge when we feel so time poor, but is it what we should be doing? Like Church Action on Poverty, how are we ensuring that we’re not just a voice for those without a voice, but that we’re helping those who are not heard to use their own voice?
As I finish I’ll leave you with some inspiring words from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche which could transform us as individuals and as a church if we’re brave enough to follow them and really become a poor church for the poor:

“If you enter into relationship with a lonely or suffering person you will discover something else; that it is you who are being healed. The broken person will reveal to you your own inner hurt and the hardness of your heart, but also how much you are loved. Thus the one you came to heal will be the healer. If you let yourself be moulded thus by the cry of the poor and accept their healing friendship, then they may guide your footsteps into community and lead you into a new vision of humanity, a new world order, not governed by power and fear but where the poor and weak are at the centre. They will lead you into the kingdom Jesus speaks of”.

Lydia Groenewald

For further inspiration: ‘Poverty is many things’ by Tony Walsh

Poverty is not entertainment, it’s not noble or romantic.
Poverty is… heavy.
It’s heavy hearts and heavy legs.
It’s sore skin and hollow eyes.
It’s upset and downhearted.
It’s hunger. Malnourishment. It’s always thinking about the next meal.
Poverty is bailiffs, it’s food banks, it’s queues and lists, it’s never being told what you’re entitled to but always being told.
Poverty is being shown up then put down.
It’s missed payments and mistrust.
It’s always answering questions but never answering the door.
Poverty is hiding in plain view. It’s hiding.
Poverty is high bills and low pay.
It’s higher costs and lower self-esteem.
It’s invisible scars and visible pain.
Poverty is living nextdoor, it’s living on your nerves, it’s not living, it’s… barely surviving.
Poverty is… everywhere. With… nowhere to turn
It’s a gut-wrenching silence, screaming.
Poverty is depressing, demotivating and dehumanising.
It’s degradation, desperation and despair.
Poverty is feeling… worthless, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling excluded, it’s feeling rejected, it’s feeling ashamed, it’s feeling trapped, it’s feeling angry, it’s feeling fffrustrated, poverty is…. exhausting.
It’s not feeling anything. It’s… numb.
Poverty is… crushing. Empty. Lonely.
Poverty is cold. It’s damp. It’s ill health. Bad housing. Sadness, fear and human misery.
Poverty is ignored and abandoned. It’s sanctioned and sectioned. It’s late payments and early deaths.
Poverty is not something that happens to… “others”.
Poverty is our old people, our young people, our sick people, our disabled people, our mentally ill people, our homeless people. Poverty is people seeking asylum, it’s people who are refugees, people who are migrants. Poverty is over-worked, under-paid everyday people.
Poverty is people. It’s children. Babies. Not… “them”. Us.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Poverty is growing in our country. In 2017.
Poverty is many things, but
it is not
acceptable.

A collaboration between Church Action on Poverty and Tony Walsh

0 Like this?

Bulletin 26th February 2017

Bulletin 26th February 2017

0 Like this?

Bulletin 19th February 2017

Bulletin 19th February 2017

0 Like this?

Bulletin 12th February 2017

Bulletin 12th February 2017

0 Like this?
Video

Celebrating the Diocese of Leeds

Some of the amazing things that are going on in our Diocese.

Spot Heston!

 

0 Like this?

Sermon by Richard Barton – 5th February 2017

Sermon 5th February 2017

Mark 6

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our strength and our redeemer. Amen

“Sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning he came to them, walking on the water”

The sixth chapter of Marks Gospel is full of rich sermon pickings. The sending out of the disciples, the feeding of the five thousand. But the verses that spoke to me and that I have been moved to preach on is the fifth story, of Jesus walking on water.

The gospel tells us that after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus “made his disciples get in the boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida which was on the other side of lake Galilee from where they were” while Jesus himself went up into the hills to pray. The disciples were clearly making a night trip across the lake, it sounds an unusual thing to do, but some of the disciples were fishermen and this was probably routine for them. Though is worth noting they were headed to Bethsaida which was in Gentile territory, not necessarily hostile but not a trip that was going to go down well with their Jewish Community on the other shore of Lake Galilee. But Jesus could see that the wind was against them and they were “straining at the oars” so “Sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning he came to them, walking on the water”. Then it says very strangely “he was going to pass them by” a phrase theologians have discussed and tried to explain away, though I still find this  inexplicable! The disciples seeing someone coming to them, or about to pass them by, walking on water are afraid and think it is a ghost. They are to use the modern parlance, totally freaked out!

So two things struck me about this story, about Jesus coming to the disciples. Firstly it is at a time when the disciples were under quite a bit of pressure, the very early morning probably in the dark, when, even professional fishermen not withstanding, few of us are at our best, and with the wind against them, straining at the oars, heading for a land that is foreign to them, something they would have uneasy about. Secondly, Jesus comes in a way that is, at least initially, not reassuring, but seemingly ambivalent, disturbing, frightening.

I expect there are some for whom the key message of this story is the miraculous nature of Jesus action, indicating his divine nature, only God can walk on water. And if that aspect of the story is meaningful and inspiring for you, that’s great. But for me what intrigues is how Jesus appears to be moved by love and compassion for his disciples after praying and wants to come to them. But it seems his timing is off, catching them distracted, and the nature of his appearance is not reassuring but alarming. And then it gets worse, Jesus originally planned to ignore them and walk ahead across the lake.

This has lead me to reflect on how Christ comes to people and to me. How this is sometimes we are expecting it, sometimes ready for it and readily recognising Christ’s presence in others. And how sometimes, Christ comes when we least expect it, comes and seems to be passing us by, comes and we are unable, or reluctant or afraid to recognise Christ in others.

I grew up a Methodist and for many years after I moved to Leeds I worshipped at Oxford Place Methodist church and for a while I was what was called a Church Steward, which is, sort of the Methodist equivalent of a warden here. I usually sat at the back of the church during services to ensure a welcome to any late comers, hand out a hymnbooks etc and one evening service not far into the service and during a somewhat lengthy prayer of confession that the minister was reciting a young man slipped in and sat in the same row of seats as me. As the minister continued to pray for forgiveness for our sins in a, even for him, rather more fervent way than normal, I saw a flash of something bright in the young man’s hands. Shortly afterwards, and as I recall even before the prayer ended he quickly left the church sanctuary. Something suggested to me that I needed to follow this up and I went out to talk to him in the church lobby. He held a piece of broken glass and his wrist was bleeding from a cut he had just made in it. I took him into the hall and inexpertly bandaged him up, noting the multitude of scars from previous cuts on both his wrists. He told me his story: several years ago whilst a student and driving recklessly, he had crashed a car and friend in the car had died. Since then he had been frequently overcome with a sense of guilt and had with a greater or lesser degree of intent, tried to kill himself or self harm. Walking into a service where someone at the front was on about how we needed to be forgiven for all the horrible things we have done, understandably set him off on another self-destructive path. In due course I managed to lure back a retired nurse who was in the congregation, who after tutting over my appalling bandaging, ensured his wound was better wrapped. At the end of the service, I was also grateful of for the help of a retired school teacher who, skilled in counselling also talked to the young man, called ahead to the hospital just up the road to organise an emergency psychiatrist and took him in. We never saw the young man again.

In very real way Christ came to me in that young man, telling something about the physical and mental pain of the world, and how the church doesn’t always respond as well as it could. And Christ came to me in the form of the practical retired nurse Margaret Wilson and Marjorie Cossey the reassuringly capable headmistress, able to take charge in a difficult situation.

How does Christ come to you?

Christ has come to me in a very vivid way when I was a student in Canterbury and joined a group from the chaplaincy to go up to the old St Augustines mental hospital, the last of the old and often infamous residential mental institutions in the area, where they held a weekly service for the people there, to help people come to the chapel and to share the witness with them. I remember sitting with a small group of mostly elderly people taking communion in the chapel and afterwards listening to a man who talked with tears in his eyes and recited the opening verses of another gospel Johns gospel in German. And that in that strange, uncomfortable, setting, something of the faith that of mans troubled mind inspired me.

How does Christ come to you?

I worked in the US in California for about a year and a half and during that time I got involved with a project to source food for a group of refugees from Central America. There was a need to go the big Oakland Fruit and Vegetable Market and ask the stall holders for donations. We went firstly with a slightly scary Catholic priest who would literally guilt the stall holders he knew or suspected were catholic lapsed or not (!) to hand  over a box of pears, or a bag of potatoes. Later on I took on this task on my own or with a friend, I hated asking, the stall holders often didn’t like being asked, but usually gave something. I would then head back to the community centre where I pooled my often meagre offerings, with lorry loads of oranges from the central valley, donated eggs from a local monastery who kept chickens, and various other donations which were then handed out to refugee families, and various classes and advices sessions where held and the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful. I continue to remember these days, when Christ came to me in an uncomfortable way in the grudging generosity of a stall holder, as well as in the bustling positive energy of the food distribution.

How does Christ come to you?

In our story Jesus gets into the boat reassuring the disciples. “Courage, It is I, do not be afraid”. The winds are calmed, the disciples are amazed. When Christ does come to us he will calm our fears, reassure us, and give us the strength to carry on, to row to the other side, to continue our life of service and faith.

But interestingly the story then really focusses on the disciples lack of understanding of what is going on and who Jesus really is. A theme we have all probably become used to as we read this Gospel. And that maybe in a strange way can be reassuring to us. We may miss when Christ comes to us, in our meetings with others and experiences. Particularly when times are difficult, we are going against the wind, in dark, going into strange territory. I wonder if the person or persons who were relating these stories to Mark the gospel writer, would say. My goodness do your remember that time when Jesus came to us walking on the water and we thought he was a ghost! “ Perhaps when we take time to reflect, we will see how Christ comes to us.

As I think Debbie said in her sermon a couple of weeks back, at this point in this story the disciples are yet again probably saying to each other: “Who is this man?”

Albert Schweizer was a German Theologian, musician, Doctor and indeed Nobel Peace Prize winner in the first half of the last century, he was a remarkable if also at times very flawed man but he also asked this question, who is or was Jesus and wrote a book the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Id like quote the very last lines of this book to end this sermon.

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

 

0 Like this?